Emotional labor is the exertion of energy for the purpose of addressing people’s feelings, making people comfortable, or living up to social expectations. It’s called “emotional labor” because it ends up using – and often draining – our emotional resources.
By their own definition, addressing other people’s feelings is absolutely draining. This brilliant article (irony intended) is eerily reminiscent of how a sociopath might view the world, a world in which most humans are at ease with the natural interaction they have with each other, yet a certain segment finds any emotional involvement a chore.
One could safely say most people naturally “invest” those “emotional resources” into interacting with others, aside from introspection, which is also mostly based on interpreting the experiences they’ve had with others. If they were to draw a line marking the point to which they are willing to “invest” these “resources” with anyone, family members included, what exactly would they be “saving up” for?
Now, don’t get me wrong: Asking friends for advice, reaching out to people in your line of work, and other actions I’m about to mention can be part of a healthy relationship. The issue arises when it’s not reciprocal.
OK. So it’s a bit like a transaction. You put in ten hours to help someone through an emotional crisis and then demand the same for whatever problem you might have. Or you might just make them listen to you for the same length of time just to make sure you got enough value out of the relationship.
No, it doesn’t work that way.
Sometimes people crush into your daily life badly needing a friendly ear or other types of help. Making an issue out of it (unless they are definitely using you or making your life truly unbearable) is just petty. And so is expecting someone going through a very difficult time to make a priority of your problems, just out of moral obligation.
Because we’re assumed to be naturally emotionally intelligent and nurturing, people don’t always understand that this is work for us.
No, it’s not. It’s a simple part of being human and a simple part of being female. We’re not assumed, but scientifically proven to be that way. Of course, to a progressive, everything that has already been proven about humans becomes an “assumption”, if it doesn’t coincide with what they aspire to convince others of.
1. We are asked to watch, entertain, or help take care of younger siblings, cousins, and other children more than men because people automatically assume we must love kids and be naturally nurturing.
And because you are presumably able to communicate, you can always say no in a situation which makes you uncomfortable. But you’re afraid that would make you seem uncaring and bitchy, wouldn’t it? Can’t have it both ways.
2. Friends offload their problems – sometimes serious problems that we’re not equipped to handle – onto us before we have agreed to talk about them, often expecting an immediate response.
An adult can usually deal with the facts of life. An adult normally knows all kinds of things happen on this planet – and can at least handle hearing about them. Heaven forbid such a person might be trapped in a tragical situation such as a natural catastrophe or war – they think their comfort zone will be there forever and must be preserved at all cost, even by avoiding life outside their windows.
You might be surprised to hear that’s what friends are for – otherwise they would be referred to as mere acquaintances, not friends. And I’m not referring to FB friends either (though I’ve seen close friendships form online and experienced that as well). It’s a matter of trust and involvement. People confide in those they trust. It’s as simple as that. If you’re uncomfortable with that, you are simply not that person’s friend.
3. Casual acquaintances and sometimes complete strangers do the same, often over the Internet and often sharing triggering details.
That means they must be in a really bad place emotionally and you really should try to help (if you’re at all a decent human being). As for online interactions being triggering, well… keep off the internet, why don’t you. Or outright tell them in the information you are sharing that you’re not psychologically equipped to read certain words. By the way, if you’re on a platform which often involves that, do not be shocked when it happens.
4. Street harassers and other people who make us uncomfortable guilt us if we don’t respond to them. If we don’t say no, we’re supposedly asking for it. And f we do respond, we’re not “polite enough.”
If someone is actually harassing you, you can rest assured they don’t expect you to be polite. Or nice. If they’re giving you sudden unwanted attention, 99% of the time they are not expecting anything out of you either. Guilt presumes some sense of obligation one might feel – how does that apply to strangers in the street? Anyway – how is that draining your emotional resources again?
5. People who believe we can provide them with professional gain ask to “pick our brains” with no pay or reciprocation in the name of “networking.”
You’re free to say “no”.
Everyone I know who is a professional is more than happy to advise family, friends and acquaintances in terms of work without expecting anything back. They are, you know… happy to be helpful? Perhaps they feel good just for being in a position of pointing others on their path? Perhaps they’re just nice? Does that word exist anymore?
6. When we have relatives or friends with physical or mental illnesses, they and their loved ones are more likely to reach out to us than men to take care of them.
That is a delicate situation and depends on a lot of variables. One has to have a certain personality type (enough patience and kindness) to be able to do that. Selfish types with a perpetual victim complex are not likely to ever be asked, if one knows them well enough.
7. If we are in professions that involve interactions with people, those we serve expect us to act as their therapists.
Interactions with people…? As in what? Mc Donald’s could qualify for that, as well as any job in retail, hospitality, healthcare… you name it. Everything from medicine to prostitution and drug dealing entails interactions with people. There are a few jobs one can do behind a computer screen or in a completely isolated place, without having to speak to anyone (offshore lighthouse keepers used to have that “privilege”, but the job is mostly outdated).This is way too generalising.
And with the risk of repeating – those who confide in complete strangers out of the blue are either having very serious problems, needing immediate attention, or trying to rob you blind – one of the two. Yes, someone might confide in a physician, lawyer, teacher etc to a greater extent than normal, but that presumes they think said confidant might have valuable perspectives or advice. If you’re out of your league on certain issues you can always point them in the right direction (someone who is specialised in their type of problem).
8. We are judged more harshly for lacking social skills and criticized for not being sentimental or warm, so we go to great lengths to present ourselves in a desirable manner in social interactions.
Perhaps 50 years ago. I don’t think that applies now. Not in western cultures anyway. Though to think of it, one is generally intimidated by someone who only shows harsh mannerisms; it’s a human instinct. Stone cold equals reptile, which equals predator. By the time you reach old age some traits are imprinted on your face. For some it happens even earlier. You see someone staring meanly, with a mouth “like a cat’s arse”, the way they put it in Scotland, and you are immediately intimidated by them.
9. We are more often criticized for swearing, talking about sex, and doing other “vulgar” things men get away with, so we go to great lengths to censor ourselves.
Not if you’re working class. But you’re not. Which says a lot, corroborated with everything else.
10. If we don’t take immediately to parenthood, want to put our kids above all else, want to be the primary caretaker, or want kids in the first place, we are made to feel like something’s wrong with us.
That’s because the middle and upper class have a certain view on parenthood which does not apply to real life. In real life, people get by however they can. In my country, many young couples go abroad to secure a higher income and leave the kids with relatives for a year or two. During communism, many children were brought up by their grandparents as the parents were always working (mandatorily). Things are difficult for many struggling families across the world – but well-to-do individuals wouldn’t understand that; they cling to the ideal situation and sometimes that’s not enough for them either.
I’d say start by not killing them. That would at least give them a chance at whatever this existence has to offer.
11. We have to justify the decisions we make about our bodies, including whether or not we wear makeup, shave our body hair, get surgery, eat salad, eat ice cream, and eat pretty much anything.
First of all, please indicate the benefits of having bodily hair as a woman. There aren’t any. Secondly, I don’t see who gives a shit about make up nowadays, unless you’re sixteen and walking about like you’re working along the harbour at midnight. Thirdly, men are judged in terms of weight just like women are. Except they might not feel so offended because they might not crave constant attention and adulation, like some women do.
I wholly agree people should leave each other alone in terms of appearance, as it’s nobody’s business what a stranger looks like at one point in time. However, I think it’s detrimental to encourage women to put themselves in a vulnerable position of being mocked (such as posing naked while morbidly obese), knowing 95% of the feedback they will get will be negative. There’s no need for that. Those women have enough humiliation on a daily basis to encourage them to expose themselves completely, in the name of progressiveness.
12. We have to justify decisions that are perceived as threats to our safety, such as drinking, walking alone at night, or being alone with men.
Being aware of the real dangers out there does not mean you have to justify anything. As an adult you are presumed to know the risks and make decisions in good conscience. The world of pink unicorns does not exist.
13. Others expect us to justify all of our sexual decisions, whether they’re deemed “slutty” or “prudish.”
How about keeping them private instead? But no, I forgot, we have to “shout our status” and show off the content of our underpants.
14. We’re expected to take part in “heart to hearts,” “girls’ nights,” and other emotionally intensive occasions that we may or may not have the energy for or interest in.
According to whom is one obligated to participate in these meetings between close friends? If you’re not keen on that, simply say no. And if you’re not keen on friends, just don’t have any.
15. We feel pressure to feign interest in “feminine” topics like beauty and fashion even if we have no interest in them whatsoever. (Masculine-presenting people experience this, too, just for other interests like sports and cars.)
What kind of pressure is that? Is there really a perceived advantage to being stereotypical? Or is this a high society issue, of being rejected by peers if one’s interests do not fit within a certain range? Anyway, claiming that this expectation “is draining” someone is really far fetched.
16. Our coworkers expect us to mediate conflicts, brainstorm ways to improve company culture, and perform other roles typically assigned to human resources.
Allow me to doubt that the perpetual complainer is ever sought for mediation – in fact, they are much more likely to start conflicts than solve them. In fact, one should see this assumption as a compliment, as it’s not a skill many people have.
17. When men explain things to us that we know as much or more about, they expect us to listen as if they are educating us in order to stroke their egos.
About this “mansplaining”.
Regarding things men do know more about, in 30 years of existence on this planet this hasn’t happened to me even once. I’ve never met a man who was keen to explain things to someone he thought knew nothing about them – and when asked to handle something they usually just do it and find it tedious to detail more than necessary. In fact, some men are annoyed if you nag them with questions about what they’re doing.
As for things women certainly know more about, which relate to womanhood directly, I haven’t noticed men starting discussions at all. Everything else is always up for debate.
Obviously, if you’re a professional being challenged by an amateur, the sex of said amateur doesn’t matter (this happens to women and men by women or men). It’s not a sex-related issue.
18. If we are dating men, people advise us to play the exhausting game of “hard to get” in order to give them the “thrill of the chase.”
And you really have to handle your dates the way other people tell you to? Are you under a microscope? Do you really have to tell everyone around you how soon you ended up in bed with your date? Or is this a high society issue again?
19. If we are in a male-dominated profession or academic field, we feel pressure to always be perfect, lest our colleagues take our imperfections as evidence that all people like us are flawed in the same way.
All people like us? That’s very vague. Oh yes, women and “femmes”. Of course, since no one really knows what a woman is anymore, things get quite complicated.
20. We are judged more harshly in the workplace and in social interactions if we don’t spend time polishing our appearances.
It depends on your line of work, really. If you’re a cleaning operative, for instance, I can say for sure you don’t need to worry about showing up in an evening gown and high heels.
21. We feel pressure to avoid looking or acting too “feminine” out of fear that people will judge us negatively, not take us seriously, or make assumptions about us.
Fear is internal. Pressure is vague and can be perceived even in its actual absence. Plus, define “feminine” as a feminist.
22. We feel pressure to avoid looking or acting too “masculine” out of fear that people will ridicule us, deem us undesirable, or distrust our gender identity.
Well, some girls suit it, whilst others overdo it and appear false to some extent. Being natural in every aspect is far better than deciding if you want to be feminine or masculine, as if you were picking a brand of ice cream. Women can be feminine in some regards and masculine in others. “Distrust our gender identity” is a new non-problem as people don’t generally question someone’s gender unless said person is making an effort for their appearance to be confusing (and certain individuals do it for fun).
23. We are judged more harshly if we don’t keep our living spaces neat, succeed at cooking and other forms of homemaking, and do a great job entertaining guests.
That has a really simple solution: either don’t invite anyone to your home, or invite only people you are comfortable with and vice-versa. Entertaining guests is not a mandate in life. Not to mention it’s a posh way to describe having someone over. Unless you have rats crawling out of tins in your kitchen, you’re probably fussing over nothing.
24. When we’re hosting people from out of town, we’re expected to not just give them a couch to crash on, but also keep the fridge and pantry stocked to their liking, show them around like tour guides, provide them with comfortable living spaces, and constantly be available to them.
Again – this seems to apply to
snobs people of a certain social status, facing high demands and expectations, which have to embody perfection in everything they do. It also applies to very formal relationships.
25. We’re expected to constantly ask questions and make observations to keep conversations going, while men often get away with waiting for others to ask questions and giving one-word answers.
In a culture which makes fun of women’s chattering habit, I never really noticed them being expected to talk even more than usual. I have no idea where the author gets this from.
26. Our significant others expect us to initiate important conversations like defining the terms of the relationship, taking stock of how the relationship is going, and addressing conflicts.
Noooo, they do not. In my experience and that of those I know, it’s not something they look forward to. In fact, I’ve never been around a man who was keen on that particular conversation. And I know for a fact that they often give the cold shoulder when women insist on initiating it.
27. When we decide not to enter into a relationship, we risk being guilted for failing to reward a “nice guy” who “deserves” our affections.
Guilted by whom? The person who expected their feelings reciprocated (which would be a natural response, although not helpful to them) or society in general? I’m not aware of any pressure western women are under regarding the partners they choose. If you want to talk about oppression in that sense, how about the women in remote parts of the world refusing arranged marriages and being killed for it?
28. When we end a relationship, we’re often demonized and blamed for not doing enough to maintain it, even if we devoted extensive time and energy to discussing problems and trying to make the relationship work.
Perhaps a source of negativity consists of this precise energy and time devoted to the discussions many men cannot stand, which women think “make a relationship work”. In fact, they do the exact opposite. I can say that from my own experience and that of others. The obsession with perfection, with “how it should be” (the ideal relationship), constantly holding grudges and grievances, can put a lot of stress on a man.
Feminism in particular encourages women to keep evaluating their relationships, looking for flaws and offences in every word, bad day, failed plan etc, down to political persuasions and opinions having nothing to do with family life.
29. We’re expected to provide our children and other people under our care with the majority of the emotional support and caretaking that they need.
If one does not feel naturally inclined to do so, they should at least be aware of the emotional consequences of refusing to, when it comes to children and teenagers, and not be surprised when they end up in dangerous situations because someone claimed to offer said support they were desperately craving (an exploiter, an abuser, a cult).
30. We’re expected to keep the peace with our cohabitants under all conditions, facilitate bonding between us and our roommates, put up with disruptive behavior, and, if we have male roommates, do the majority of the housework.
For me personally it wouldn’t be an issue as I’ve lived in shared accommodation and would have gladly formed fraternal bonds with the people I was dwelling with, had they not been a bit (more) xenophobic towards me since the beginning. Had I been able to form friendships in that context, I wouldn’t have grudged loud music or cleaning or anything like that. Sharing one’s daily life with someone is likely to lead to bonding, if everyone is willing.
31. When we’re survivors of sexual misconduct, people sympathize with the perpetrator to the extent that we feel bad about “hurting their reputation” due to a “misunderstanding” or “ruining their lives” for reporting a crime.
Sexual misconduct is vague terminology. No one empathises with a rapist or child molester, not in western democracies anyway (except maybe people who come from different cultures). It would be useful to know what a feminist includes here. Rape is not a misunderstanding but a provable act – so I’m deducing this refers to interpretable situations, although crime is mentioned.
32. We’re expected to grit our teeth and put up with disrespectful and objectifying behavior from men because “boys will be boys.”
Whereas it can get nasty at times, women do the same to men, if not worse, nowadays. Plus, define disrespectful and objectifying. To professional offence takers, this could mean just anything at all. It could even mean a compliment.
33. In the workplace, we have to worry about presenting our ideas in a non-threatening manner so that we won’t be labeled “aggressive.”
That may apply to the corporate environment, which most women on this planet have no interaction with. I personally have never met a woman who was afraid, as a professional, to put forth an idea (for this reason anyway). Creativity is normally valued anywhere.
34. But we also have to worry about being assertive, not apologizing too much, and avoiding other behaviors that will get us labeled as “feminine” and consequently ineffective leaders.
Corporate speech again. Not everyone works in a version of The Apprentice. For the most part, it’s just humans interacting with other humans. I’ve got a bit of sad news – when dealing with assholes bent on finding flaws, they will anyway, regardless of what you do or don’t do. There’s no point trying to please an asshole; it’s impossible. The more artificial one’s attitude is in any work environment, the more they will be disliked by genuine folks.
35. Those of us with uteruses are expected to make regular doctors’ appointments, do research on birth control methods, and potentially undergo physical pain or remember a pill every day in order to ensure that an unwanted pregnancy doesn’t occur.
If it’s in your direct interest to avoid an accident, as you would try to avoid any other accident, there is no strife in prevention. After all, a man can just walk away. It’s certainly not unheard of. A woman is left to deal with the consequences – she is therefore the most interested to make sure a pregnancy does not occur if she is certain of not wanting it. Do you remember to put your seatbelt on every time you get behind the wheel? Do you wear protective gear when the work environment demands it? If so, then why is it so fucking hard to make sure you have a condom in your possession or you take your pill regularly?
36. In the case of an unwanted pregnancy, we risk being shamed for the decision we make about it.
In case of an abortion, I’m inclined to think regret is involved more than shaming, when you’re not dealing with self-righteous street saints who threaten others with the fires of hell. In the case of single motherhood, it has become extremely common nowadays so there is little shaming if any, I would think.
37. If we have children, we’re shamed for everything from how we give birth to how we feed them.
BY OTHER WOMEN.
I had to stress that as I’ve briefly come across so-called “mums’ forums”, where strangers stumble in to ask about one thing or another. The acidity some of the questions were met with showed me in a heartbeat they can be very toxic environments, where everyone’s way is “the right and moral way” and any deviation is unacceptable or even criminal in a moral sense. People there, from what I’ve seen (though again, briefly, so I might be wrong in a general sense, but based on how niche communities operate, I don’t think I am).
It’s all about competition, about proving who is the best and most successful at their job, so to speak. To be fair, I’ve never participated in such forums. But seeing what goes on, I wouldn’t want to either. Birth and feeding are actually just two issues. Television or the lack of it, ideologies, religion, freedom, scheduling their lives to the minute etc – anything you say can be used against you. The main focus is fear of peer pressure. Fear of getting something wrong. Even in a fucked up, confused culture.
38. We’re made to worry about what we wear because there’s a chance someone will label it “slutty,” “prudish,” “boyish,” “frumpy,” or some other derogatory term used about women’s clothing.
Again, this is mainly done to women by other women. I see men focus on how women look, in terms of attractiveness, but never hear fashion-related discussions among them. Somehow I doubt they’re very interested.
39. When we go out, we’re encouraged to be hyper-vigilant by keeping our eyes on our drinks, keeping track of our friends, and taking out our keys before we get home in case we’re attacked.
So on the one hand the world is full of street harassers and men seeking to take advantage of women, and on the other hand, those who show concern (warranted, by their own admission) for women’s safety are responsible for depleting them of emotional resources. Are women supposed to worry about rape and harassment on social media but ignore the possibility in real life? It’s really confusing.
40. During sex, we feel pressure to make artificial faces and noises and fake orgasms in order to turn our partners on and make them feel good about their sexual prowess.
Or maybe you’re watching too much porn and assume that everyone does and feels pressured to imitate it?
41. When we speak out about sexism, we have to deal with backlash and criticism for being “bitchy,” “too sensitive,” or “the PC police.”
In any given situation of thinking one has been wronged, if it’s questionable at all (and many of these reported “sexism”-related incidents are), one has to keep in mind that there’s still a chance they might be wrong about the “offender’s” reasons for certain behaviour. When non-feminists watch feminists pinpoint sexism with such certainty you’d think their conclusion had been reached in a laboratory, they have every right to distrust them. People who think they cannot be wrong are not to be trusted.
42. If we get angry, we risk being labeled an “angry feminist.”
The notion itself is repetitive. Feminism is based on resentment, anger and frustration, not to mention a victim complex.
43. If we show any emotion, we risk being used as evidence that women are emotional.
There’s nothing wrong with women being emotional; it’s a fact of life. The only women having a problem with it are denying their own nature and are trying to convey a stone block facade.
44. If we cry, we risk someone assuming it’s because we’re on our periods.
I doubt anyone but a close friend with whom banter takes place would refer to your period in any context. I don’t see it happening in public places, at work etc. I just don’t see it.
45. If we actually are experiencing physical or emotional health issues related to our uteruses, we risk being used as evidence that women are irrational.
That is very vague and I don’t see how someone’s ability to reason is affected even by emotional health problems. Being emotionally unstable does not imply being stupid. It’s more of a disconnect between the rational mind and your emotions, which does not mean the rational mind ceases to function and know wrong from right.
46. If we ask for what we want in relationships, we risk our partners labeling us as needy.
If what you want is unrealistic or something they are unable/ unwilling to provide, it might not be the right relationship or you might need to reassess whether you are indeed asking too much. Which is not impossible to do. You cannot expect others to keep adapting to your needs while you are unwilling to compromise.
47. Men we date often expect our full attention while they keep their options open and only devote as much time to us as they want to.
Women do the same nowadays. Selfish people in general do that.
48. People frequently tell us to smile and otherwise adjust our appearance and behavior to make ourselves more pleasing to other people.
I have never experienced or witnessed that. It would be patronising as fuck for an adult to be told what to do to that extent. If you’re referring to advice on how to be more successful when meeting strangers (potential employers, customers etc), seeming approachable is indeed a useful skill. Although if not sincere, a smile can turn into a very strange grimace.
50. When men try to advocate for us, even if they fail miserably and even if they hurt us in the process by promoting benevolent sexism, we’re expected to pat them on the back for their efforts and be grateful our problems are getting any attention at all.
Let’s face it. You lot will never be satisfied, no matter how hard someone tries to accommodate your bullshit. And when they do try, it obviously comes out wrong as it was an unnatural idiocy to begin with. It seems forced,contrived and overdone because it could not be any other way. It’s like trying to deal with the clinically insane and go along with their delusions; nothing that comes out of that situation makes sense, regardless of the good intentions.
For this reason, the emotional labor demanded of us exacerbates other problems women and femmes already face in the workplace, politics, and other realms. We can’t fight for gender equality when we have no energy to devote to it.
It’s funny because to me it seems feminists only have energy for feminism and anything else seems like a black hole to them.
Here’s my take on the little sense I can make out of these fifty points:
- I want to be completely selfish in everything I do but still seem caring and considerate. Also, I want to see myself as caring (even though I analyse every contact with others through the lens of what I’m getting from it) and others had better lower their standards for me to preserve this illusion.
- I want to be seen as a victim but to be treated as a strong individual entitled to take offence when someone alludes to my need of protection (mindfuck; I want to have my cake and eat it).
- I could not care less about most people (all people?) but I still want them to like me, as I worry about what they might think of me in every situation (reminiscent of narcissism).
- I am unwilling to meet anyone halfway but the entire world had better adapt to my needs.